October 31, 1517 & October 31, 2012 (495 years Later)
Anyone who follows this blog regularly already knows that I have been diagnosed with cancer. I begin my treatment today – 4-5 hours of chemotherapy and 24 minutes of Radiation. I will have 33 straight treatments with the hopes that my cancer will be killed.
I don’t believe it’s by coincidence or an accident that my chemotherapy and radiation treatment begin on October 31st – the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the Church Door at Wittenberg, Germany. Luther’s 95 Theses sparked perhaps one of the five most significant days in Church history since the closing of the Canon of Scripture on any church historian’s list of significant days.
I want to make a few observations before I leave for the hospital for treatment today:
(1) I am grateful for truth and those who fight for it – no matter what the cost. When you get cancer you start hearing stories of courageous people of all ages who have battled and overcome cancer; and on the other hand, there are many who were courageous and have lost the battle. Honestly, I’ve never been so inspired by others in a battle for anything. When death is on the line – anything cancer survivors have to say, is like E.F. Hutton speaking to me – when they talk I listen (1980’s television commercial “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen”). I am grateful that Martin Luther did not recant of his teaching of justification by faith in Christ Jesus. There is no greater comfort I have than my security and peace with God the Father through His Son – Jesus Christ. I know that whether I live or die – that I’m justified before God the Father because of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ my Savior and Lord. I am so grateful for the promise of Jesus related to Him being the pinnacle of truth when He declares to Thomas and the disciples in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”
(2) I thank God for what theologians call “common grace.” Two of the people that have helped me the most since I’ve been diagnosed with cancer are not followers of Christ. And yet, I am so grateful for their advice, wisdom, and compassion in my battle with cancer and all the medical procedures I’ve had to go endure so far. I am grateful for doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and others who have come alongside me with an expertise in their particular areas in treating cancer. It is a common grace that all truth is God’s truth. The rain falls on the wicked farmer’s and righteous farmer’s crops alike. I am reminded that all people are made in God’s image and though they may not share my passion for Christ and God’s Word – they are special and many share an affinity for objective truth’s and helping their fellow man. Luther was helped by many who were not followers of Christ in helping bring about the Reformation of the church and the Gospel. In the Bible God uses men as wicked as Judas to bring about His purposes.
(3) I am grateful for God’s sovereignty. I know that nothing can happen to me that He does not allow. R.C. Sproul likes to say there is not one single maverick molecule that is not under God’s control. I believe that God can kill my cancer without chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Many family members, and friends, and even Christians I don’t even know, in different parts of the world are praying for me. I feel totally humbled by this outpouring of love. Elders, my mom, and several close friends have anointed me with oil. However, the cancer is still there. As of today I still have cancer that needs to be killed through the means of God’s people praying, medications, radiation and chemotherapy treatment, and the various nutritional cancerous killing foods I’ve been eating and drinking. However, no matter what happens I know that God is sovereign – in control of everything (including my cancer), and that He is good – He will be glorified no matter what becomes of my cancer. Luther was not perfect – as a matter of fact that’s why he was so passionate about the Bible. In God’s sovereignty He raised up a brilliant and yet very bombastic theologian to shake things up in the Church. I don’t claim to be brilliant, nor too bombastic, but I do know that God will bring about good and the glorification of His Son on a much smaller scale in sovereignly using my cancer for His ultimate purposes and plans – and that is extremely comforting. The fact that no one, no thing, no ruler, no nation, no disease – can thwart the sovereign plan of God to bring glory to Himself.
(4) Luther said that suffering helped him understand the Bible, and that without experiencing pain and suffering you can’t be a good theologian. I strive hard to be a good interpreter and teacher, but I totally concur with Luther – suffering makes you a much better theologian. I don’t like suffering or pain any more than anyone else. But I think that the emotional pain that led to physical pain for the advancement of the gospel in Luther’s life was worth it. It was worth it for me, and worth it for you. I’m so glad that I know salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone because Luther’s heritage has been passed down for almost 500 years. Before him it was taught by all of the apostles in the New Testament. It is extremely clear. But nothing good, comes easy, or without a cost. We have the phrase in America – “No pain, no gain.” Without Christ’s suffering and pain on the cross there would be no spiritual gain in any way, shape, or form in our standing with God. I stand amazed at Jesus’ voluntarily leaving His rightful place with the Father and Spirit to come to planet earth to pay the ultimate price and be the one and only sacrifice for our sin. He is able to empathize with our sufferings and weaknesses, and is yet without sin.
Today I stand as Luther did on the truth of justification by faith alone in Jesus; in God’s common grace through the expertise of the doctors and nurses and the medications they will use to kill my cancer; in the sovereign will of God working all things together for my good and His glory; and I’m prepared to suffer because in Christ I know that His sufferings were greater still and for a greater good; no matter what happens – as Luther was able to say “Here I Stand” – I can also stand firmly today 495 years later because of Jesus the Nazarene.
The song below will be going through my mind during radiation and chemotherapy treatment today. It summarizes everything that Luther stood for on October 31, 1517. It is a song that talks about going from darkness to light; sinner to saint; from totally condemned because of my sin to fully redeemed by His righteousness. Why? Because of the amazing plan of the Father to send His Son – the Perfect for the imperfect; the Clean for the unclean; the obedient sacrificial Lamb for the rebellious goat. I hope and pray that the chemotherapy and radiation will do for me in a physical sense what Christ has done for me in a spiritual sense. I pray the cancer will be wiped away as Jesus has washed away all of my sin. Here is the song written by Charles H. Gabriel that summarizes these truths of the Reformation:
“I Stand Amazed in the Presence”
I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how he could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.
How marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! How wonderful
Is my Savior’s love for me!
For me it was in the garden
he prayed: “Not my will, but thine.”
He had no tears for own griefs,
But sweat-drops of blood for mine.
In pity angels beheld him,
and came from the world of light
to comfort him in the sorrows
he bore for my soul that night.
He took my sins and my sorrows,
he made them his very own;
he bore the burden to Calvary,
and suffered and died alone.
When with the ransomed in glory
his face I at last shall see,
‘twill be my joy through the ages to sing of his love for me.